Giving back: The growth and formalization of pro bono work – Lexpert

Catherine Gleason-Mercier

Feb 1, 2016

According to Bev Cline in Lexpert Magazine, law firms are increasingly formalizing their selection processes to respond to a burgeoning commitment to pro bono work.

However, pro bono work at Osler is usually the result of grassroots initiatives led by individual lawyers. Its selection policy is flexible to reflect important issues to the community that don’t necessarily make front page news. Such issues include Osler’s involvement in the incorporation of the Girl Guides in 1917 and helping to found Kids Help Phone. Mahmud Jamal, partner in Osler’s Litigation Practice Group and Chair of the Pro Bono Committee, says that the majority of cases presented to its Pro Bono Committee get approved.

Jamal notes: “It really is very much a self-selection process, which is to say that we rely on lawyers to come to us with matters that they care about or where they have been approached.”

Much of today’s pro bono work is spearheaded by the new generation of lawyers such as Osler’s Catherine Gleason-Mercier. The third-year litigation associate took on the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA over plans to have the women’s soccer team play on artificial turf rather than natural grass like the men’s teams. Gleason-Mercier and her co-counsel argued that this decision amounted to a human rights violation under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Gleason-Mercier notes: “We won a significant procedural dispute as the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled in our favour that FIFA was properly served with the application and was obliged to respond.”

Read Bev Cline’s full article, “Giving Back: The growth and information of pro bono work” in Lexpert Magazine, February 1, 2016.